Overtourism; the 10 causes

Overtourism occurs when the balance between the negatives of tourism outweighs the benefits.

Large numbers of tourists can upset the local residents, especially if they do not feel the positives created by a tourism boom. As popularity rises so does the cost of accommodations. Furthermore, the noise disrupts normal life, and places are trampled by high numbers of visitors.

But, do not forget, overtourism doesn’t just infect the local population, the tourist also experiences the symptoms of long queues, angry locals, strict restrictions and large crowds.

So why has this occurred all in the summer of 2017? Well, the signs have been there for a while and in places as high as Everest and as far East as the great wall of China. But, this summer the conditions have been just about perfect for the overtourism plague to hit Europe.

Here are ten conditions which have led to this epidemic.

1, Simply put, it’s the summer holiday season, a lot of people travel to Europe at this time of year.

2, Tourism numbers are growing. Tourists arrivals from China and India are helping stoke this steady rise.

3, How tourism success is measured. A countries tourism success rate has always been measured in the number of arrivals rather than local employment or the amount of money generated by tourism. This is the measurement of choice due to the ease of data collection, but importantly it doesn’t tell you how well the locals are benefiting from these arrivals.

4, National holidays; when a country like China has a national holiday, a mass exodus often follows. If a holiday coincides with an international holiday and with a country like the USA, who have very limited holiday allowances, squeezed into only a few popular destinations, then you have a problem.

5, Limited popular destinations. There is not an unlimited supply of popular spots, views, historical sites, and beaches. Tourists all want to go to the same places.

6, Marketing. Probably the main cause for a perceived limited destination choice. When a tourist spot becomes fashionable and the popularity rises most tourism companies jump on the band wagon and market this destination heavily. Cuba saw a huge rise in tourism numbers as visa restrictions were relaxed, causing many problems for locals. Although, this condition is also often related to the destinations marketing strategy.

7, Dangerous destinations and travel advice. When a popular country becomes a ‘no go zone’ e.g Egypt, Turkey and Tunisia,  a funnelling effect is formed and a steady stream of tourists flow into an already limited destination selection.

8, Accessibility; holiday booking, flights, connections, have all become a lot easier and cheaper. Furthermore, tourism has been called the biggest free loader, many of these destinations are free.

9, Tourisms biggest and ugliest behemoth, the giant cruise ship. These ships land at just a few beach side destinations and unload thousands of tourists all at one time. Venice has been suffering for a long time and the Venetians unofficial voted to ban them this year.

10, Destinations natural capacity; when there is no route for visitor overflow. This is often experienced in historic sites like Venice and islands. These conditions, although are the cause, can help create an antidote to overtourism.

Firstly, it’s time more responsible tourism practices are employed to ensure the local population sees the positives of tourism.

But, a drastic change in how tourism success is measured is essential, the restriction of giant cruise ships, strong marketing of alternative destinations and restrictions/charges to popular areas can all be used to stem the spread of overtourism.

For more, follow me @conservetourism or LinkedIn.

Photo by Ethan Weil on Unsplash



5 thoughts on “Overtourism; the 10 causes

  1. I am sorry to sound like a broken record but it isn’t the lack of analysis …it’s the commitment to sustainable solutions. And they exist but they are counterintuitive and painful. Worse they run counter to the short term interest of those with the power and money. They also run counter to the institutions.
    We need to recognize Travelism (Travel & Tourism) in the context of broader glocal (global and local) change strategies. It is above all a socio-economic phenomenon, which integrates with realities like mobility of millions of people evèry day, housing, feeding , entertaining: with safety, security and comfort/convenience systems. And in a framework of evolving infrastructure, technology and politics. On top of that against SDG 15 year re-alignment of everything, everywhere and a 35 year existential reality of Climate Change that disrupts it all inevitably – perhaps to global chaos if it can’t be fixed.
    So yes to respect as a lifestyle and human value. BUT we need so much more if we are to avoid armegedon.
    The SUNx approach is a new sustainability commitment …we call it Impact-Travel – measured, green and 2050 focused: a connected learning/innovation network and the next generation aware of the eXistential realities and leading the charge to change.


    • Yes, the commitment to sustainability in destinations is lacking but… changing. I think with the recent events authorities hands are being forced and things are being done. For an example Dubrovnik’s decision to reduce cruise ship tourists. But, all of this will not make the problems disappear, it will simply shift large numbers of tourists elsewhere.

      I agree, we need so much more than respect for lifestyle and human value. But if places had a grip on responsible tourism earlier on, they would have spent the time talking to local people and creating strategies to prevent problems like over tourism occurring in the first place. Protecting their investments. This is a problem that’s been on the horizon for a long time and to be honest, due to rising tourist numbers I cannot see a quick fix if people want to continue going to the same places….


  2. Believe you meant SDG 13 as SUNx engages in climate change. Linking Tourism & Conservation (www.ltandc.org) engages to help reaching targets of SDG 15 (biodiversity on land). Very important to focus on the positive potential of tourism to play an important role to reach all the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.


  3. Hi actually i was just badly describing the 15 year SDG timeframe. (Tweet talk!!!!!)
    I do believe all SDG’s are important BUT Climate Change is the existential one that mankind has developed a potential solution for…lets call it Paris+.
    SO at SUNx we focus on goal 13 and all the other goals only to the extent they vector with 13. And this is quite self serving in so far as 17 goals with 169 targets and 304 indicators for transforming everything on the planet – with priorities set by every group that has a constituency is just too much hassle for me.
    And maybe, just maybe, we can play a small part in helping the travelism sector to actually recognize what existential means and do something to justify the leadership role it claims. That’s our Impact-Travel template – measure to manage + green growth + 2050 focus. And last but not least engage young people and community stakeholders.


  4. Thanks for your article. Perhaps there is an 11th cause – Lack of involvement of local residents of the tourism destination in tourism planning, and a 12th cause – Lack of long term planning for a sustainable tourism strategy


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